Glacial cold-water coral growth in the Gulf of Cádiz: Implications of increased palaeo-productivity

Claudia Wienberg*, Norbert Frank, Kenneth N. Mertens, Jan Berend Stuut, Margarita Marchant, Jan Fietzke, Furu Mienis, Dierk Hebbeln

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

A set of 40 Uranium-series datings obtained on the reef-forming scleractinian cold-water corals Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata revealed that during the past 400 kyr their occurrence in the Gulf of Cádiz (GoC) was almost exclusively restricted to glacial periods. This result strengthens the outcomes of former studies that coral growth in the temperate NE Atlantic encompassing the French, Iberian and Moroccan margins dominated during glacial periods, whereas in the higher latitudes (Irish and Norwegian margins) extended coral growth prevailed during interglacial periods. Thus it appears that the biogeographical limits for sustained cold-water coral growth along the NE Atlantic margin are strongly related to climate change. By focussing on the last glacial-interglacial cycle, this study shows that palaeo-productivity was increased during the last glacial. This was likely driven by the fertilisation effect of an increased input of aeolian dust and locally intensified upwelling. After the Younger Dryas cold event, the input of aeolian dust and productivity significantly decreased concurrent with an increase in water temperatures in the GoC. This primarily resulted in reduced food availability and caused a widespread demise of the formerly thriving coral ecosystems. Moreover, these climate induced changes most likely caused a latitudinal shift of areas with optimum coral growth conditions towards the northern NE Atlantic where more suitable environmental conditions established with the onset of the Holocene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-416
Number of pages12
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume298
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010

Keywords

  • Aeolian dust
  • Cold-water corals
  • Gulf of Cádiz
  • Last glacial
  • NE Atlantic
  • Productivity

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